Buried Alive (1990 TV film)

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Buried Alive
Buried Alive 1990 TV Film Cover.jpg
American/UK VHS cover of Buried Alive
Genre Thriller, horror
Written by Alfie lowery
Screenplay by Mark Patrick Carducci
Story by David A. Davies
Directed by Frank Darabont
Starring Tim Matheson
Jennifer Jason Leigh
William Atherton
Hoyt Axton
Theme music composer Michel Colombier
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Niki Marvin
Cinematography Jacques Haitkin
Editor(s) Richard G. Haines
Running time 93 minutes
Production company(s) Niki Marvin Productions
Universal Television
Distributor USA Network
Budget $2,000,000
Original network USA Network
Original release May 9, 1990 (1990-05-09)
Followed by Buried Alive II (1997)

Buried Alive is a 1990 American made-for-television horror thriller film directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton and Hoyt Axton.

The film received mostly negative reviews from critics, and has often been overlooked in Darabont's directorial catalogue due to the success of his later films.


Clint Goodman is a successful contractor who built his comfortable house and his construction company in his hometown through hard work. He loves his wife Joanna, but she is resentful of him most of the time. They have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. Clint's best friend is Sheriff Sam Eberly. Every now and then, they spend the night fishing in the lake.

Unknown to Clint, Joanna has been having an affair with the local doctor, Cortland van Owen. He plans to kill Clint and sell his company and his house. With the money, he will move to Beverly Hills to buy a clinic. Cortland gives poison to Joanna, which is taken from a poisonous tropical fish. Though hesitant at first, Joanna goes along with the idea. While having dinner with Clint, she spikes his wine with the poison. Clint has a heart attack and dies. When the coroner asks if an autopsy should be done, Cortland refuses. While Clint is at the morgue, he shows signs of life. Just before he is to be embalmed, Joanna gives him a quick and cheap funeral instead, skipping the embalming process. Clint is put in a cheap water-damaged coffin, varnished to look like new. After his funeral, Joanna and Cortland celebrate.

During a stormy night, Clint, who has surprisingly survived the dosage, wakes up buried alive. After escaping his grave, he goes back to his house and learns the truth about his wife and the doctor. He hides in the basement to recuperate. The next morning, Joanna meets with a lawyer to discuss selling his business for $1,500,000. Clint wakes up and plans to kill Joanna, but when Cortland comes by to visit her, he overhears that Joanna was pregnant and Cortland had conducted an abortion of his child behind his back. Thinking shooting is too easy for Joanna, Clint plots a dark revenge against her and Cortland.

The next morning, after Joanna sold Clint's business and collected the money, Sam discovers that Clint's grave is exhumed. After examining the coffin, he believes that Clint could still be alive. Joanna goes into the bathroom and finds it covered with mud. She suspects that someone has been in her house. She frantically calls Cortland and is startled by her dog, Duke, whom she chased away earlier. Just as she's about to shoot the dog, Clint, disguised in a welding mask and armor, appears out of nowhere. She falls in the basement, knocking herself unconscious whilst Clint locks her inside and boards up the windows.

Meanwhile, at his apartment, Cortland puts some fish poison in a syringe and leaves. He arrives to see Joanna and finds the money on the bed. Cortland enters the basement, which is now open, as he searches for Joanna. Believing Cortland to be the masked figure, she hits him in the head, causing him to drop his syringe which rolls out of view. She then takes the money and tries to escape, but Clint locks them both inside. As Cortland regains consciousness, Joanna realizes her mistake, to which he argues about burning the money to prove his love. In the meantime, Clint replaces all the shotgun bullets with blanks, knocks out some walls and moves furniture. Duke guards the basement windows, preventing them from leaving the basement.

While Cortland is waiting for the figure to release them, he suspects that Sam may be behind everything. Joanna then finds the fish poison syringe and figures out that he was going to kill her. Cortland shows his true colors, revealing that there is no clinic at all. His real intention is to take the money for himself so that he can move to the tropics and live an easy life. They fight each other, and just as Cortland is about to use the syringe, the door opens. The pair finds out that most of the house is now boarded up. While trying to find a way out, they are led through a maze and split up. Cortland sees the figure (still thinking it's Sam) and tries to bribe him, secretly planning to syringe him with the poison. Clint appears, saying "Keep it". A stunned Cortland tries to run away, but trips and accidentally sticks himself with the poison, killing himself. Soon enough, Joanna is stuck between Clint and a small hatch. As her only option, she crawls through the hatchway where it dead-ends, allowing Clint to shut her inside. Clint reveals himself to her and mentions their child, asking if it was a boy or a girl. He puts the dead Cortland and the money inside with her to what is now a wooden coffin. He then nails it shut tight and burns the house before leaving with his dog.

Sam, who now believes that Joanna and Cortland murdered Clint, rushes there to find the house on fire. After the fire is extinguished, there is no corpse inside the house. Sam then sees a person at Clint's grave, with his back to Sam. Realizing it is Clint, Sam tells him to never come back and promises to keep his secret. The final shot reveals that the still alive Joanna and the deceased Cortland now occupy Clint's grave, with the money.


  • Tim Matheson as Clint Goodman
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Joanna Goodman
  • William Atherton as Dr. Cortland 'Cort' van Owen
  • Hoyt Axton as Sheriff Sam Eberly
  • Jay Gerber as Quintan
  • Wayne Grace as Bill Scorby
  • Donald Hotton as Reynolds
  • Brian Libby as Earl, the embalmer
  • Peg Shirley as Helen Eberley
  • David Youse as Billy
  • Milt Hamerman as The Coroner


Buried Alive stars Tim Matheson as Clint Goodman, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Joanna Goodman, William Atherton as Dr. Cortland 'Cort' van Owen and Hoyt Axton as Sheriff Sam Eberly. Others in the film include Jay Gerber as Quintan and Wayne Grace as Bill Scorby.[1]

The film's budget was $2,000,000,[2] whilst the film had the working title Till Death Do Us Part.[3]

According to John Carpenter on the audio commentary for Vampires, director Darabont (who are very close friends and Frank had a cameo in that film) asked Carpenter to play as a truck driver. Carpenter turned the offer down because he stated that he would only play a character that is about to or is killing someone or if he's in bed with a beautiful woman.[4]


The film first premiered on May 9, 1990 on the USA Network. The film was released under two taglines which read "She planned on her husband's death. But not on his coming back for revenge." and "One of them put an end to the marriage, until the other came back for revenge."[5]

Since the film's release, the film remained only available on out-of-print VHS in America.[6] It was released on DVD in the UK in October 2011,[7] where the sequel Buried Alive II was also released on DVD after being on out-of-print VHS.[8] Other previous DVD releases included a Dutch import[9] and the Australian double feature DVD which included the 2001 film They Crawl.[10]


AllMovie gave the film two and a half stars out of five, and wrote "Produced for cable TV, this pedestrian thriller purports to be a riff on Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Premature Burial' but actually bears more of a resemblance to Diabolique."[11] Tom Leins for Devon & Cornwall Film wrote a favorable review, stating "Buried Alive is a quirky little curio elevated above TV-movie nonsense by committed performances from the three charismatic leads. The horror genre has loomed large in Darabont's work since he scripted A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors back in 1987, and although his work in the horror sphere arguably reached its peak with zombie series The Walking Dead – prior to his untimely sacking – Buried Alive represents an appealing footnote in an often-inspired career."[2] Flickering Myth gave a favorable review and wrote "Although the plot of Buried Alive is fairly predictable, the film benefits immensely from some inventive direction from Darabont, while a capable cast of familiar faces including Matheson, Leigh, Atherton and country singer Hoyt Axton also helps to elevate it above your typical TV movie standards."[12]

In the book Time Capsule: Reviews of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV Shows from 1987-1991 by J. P. Harris, a mixed review of the film wrote "Buried Alive is more of a murder story than a horror movie. Whilst the plot actually makes sense and is professionally presented with a nicely ironic ending, there is little suspense and the whole thing is somewhat of a disappointment, given Frank Darabont's previous excellent genre record."[13]

The book DVD & Video Guide 2005 (Ballantine Books) gave the film four out of five stars,[14] whilst TV Guide (Triangle Publications) gave two stars out of five.[15]


A sequel followed in 1997, titled Buried Alive II, which starred Ally Sheedy and Stephen Caffrey. The film also was directed by and co-starred Tim Matheson, who along with Brian Libby were the only cast members from the original to return.[16] The film followed a similar plot to Buried Alive, switching the genders of the leading characters.


  1. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Full Cast & Crew - IMDb
  2. ^ a b "Sex, Leins & Videotape #102. « D&CFilm". Devon-cornwall-film.co.uk. 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  3. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Release Info - IMDb
  4. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Trivia - IMDb
  5. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Taglines - IMDb
  6. ^ Buried Alive [VHS]: Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton, Hoyt Axton, Jay Gerber, Wayne Grace, Donald Hotton, Brian Libby, Peg Shirley, David Youse, Milt Hamerman, Michael Keep, Jan Merlin, James Scally, Dale Swann, John R. Woodward, Dale Morris, Frank Darabont: Movies & TV. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013.
  7. ^ "Buried Alive [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Matheson, Frank Darabont: Film & TV". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  8. ^ "Buried Alive 2 [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Ally Sheedy, Tim Matheson: Film & TV". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  9. ^ "Frank Darabonts Buried Alive 1990 Region 2 Import: Amazon.co.uk: Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton, Hoyt Axton, Jay Gerber, Frank Darabont: Film & TV". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  10. ^ "Payless Entertainment Pty Ltd - They Crawl / Buried Alive". Payless.com.au. Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  11. ^ "Buried Alive - Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards". AllMovie. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  12. ^ "DVD Review - Buried Alive (1990)". Flickering Myth. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  13. ^ Harris, J.P. (2001). Time Capsule Reviews of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV Shows from 1987-1991. iUniverse. ISBN 978-1-4697-9711-3. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  14. ^ Martin, Mick; Porter, Marsha (2004). DVD & video guide 2005. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-44995-5. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  15. ^ TV Guide. Triangle Publications. 2005. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  16. ^ Buried Alive II (TV Movie 1997) - IMDb

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